Feast of St. Bartholomew, apostle
(Revelation 21:9b-14; John 1:45-51)
As with most of the twelve disciples whom we recognize as apostles, we know little about Bartholomew. Since in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he is paired with Philip, Biblical scholars hold that he is the same as Nathanael whom the Gospel of John associates with Philip. Nathanael, as today’s gospel relates, proclaims the identity of Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. With this statement the evangelist John presents Nathaniel-Bartholomew like Luke introduces the sage Simeon at the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. Both are portrayed as prophets announcing the redemption of Israel.
Even though Bartholomew’s biography remains largely obscure, any one of us would trade places with him. After all, he saw and even touched salvation in person! That is, he followed Jesus first-hand, heard his voice, felt the warmth of his hand. It is taken for granted that the apostles suffered martyrdom. They could do so willingly, however, because they knew that Jesus to whom they testified would give them eternal life.
We cannot know Jesus as the twelve apostles did, but nevertheless he allows us access to himself. His words remain in the gospel, his flesh and blood are ingested in the Eucharist, and his Spirit is felt in the love Christians demonstrate. In faith we know that Jesus is present to us. Drawing strength from him, we like the apostles may give witness to him by dying to ourselves in service to others.